MISERY

Fans weary of King's recent unwieldy tomes can rest easy: his newest is slim, slick, and razor-keen. His first novel without supernatural elements outside of the Richard Bachman series, this psychological terror tale laced with pitch-black humor tells the nerve-jangling story of a best-selling author kidnapped and tortured by his "number one fan." King opens on a disorienting note as writer Paul Sheldon drifts awake to find himself in bed, his legs shattered. A beefy woman, 40-ish Annie Wilkes, appears and feeds him barbiturates. During the hazy next week, Paul learns that Annie, an ex-nurse, carried him from a car wreck to her isolated house, where she plans to keep him indefinitely. She's a spiteful misanthrope subject to catatonic fits, but worships Paul because he writes her favorite books, historical novels featuring the heroine "Misery." As Annie pumps him with drugs and reads the script of his latest novel, also saved from the wreck, Paul waits with growing apprehension—he killed off Misery in this new one. tn time, Annie rushes into the room, howling: she demands that Paul write a new novel resurrecting Misery just for her. He refuses until she threatens to withhold his drugs; so he begins the book (tantalizing chunks of which King seeds throughout this novel). Days later, when Annie goes to town, Paul, who's now in a wheelchair, escapes his locked room and finds a scrapbook with clippings of Annie's hobby: she's a mass-murderer. Up to here, King has gleefully slathered on the tension: now he slams on the shocks as Annie returns swinging an axe and chops off Paul's foot. Soon after, off comes his thumb; when a cop looking for Paul shows up, Annie lawnmowers his head. Burning for revenge, Paul finishes his novel, only to use the manuscript as a weapon against his captor in the ironic, ferocious climax. Although lacking the psychological richness of his best work, this nasty shard of a novel with its weird autobiographical implications probably will thrill and chill King's legion of fans. Note: the publisher plans an unprecedented first printing of one-million copies.

Pub Date: June 8, 1987

ISBN: 0451169522

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1987

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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